June 24, 2024


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CD review: Russell Ferrante Trio – Inflexion 2021: Video, CD cover

Pianist, composer and arranger Russell Ferrante has been on the jazz scene for decades. He has worked with everyone from Lee Ritenour to Joni Mitchell to Al Jarreau to Bobby McFerrin to Eric Marienthal and many more. However, he is best known as a founding member of Yellowjackets back in 1977, along with Robben Ford and Jimmy Haslip. In 2020, at age sixty-eight, Ferrante is the only original member still with the band, and recorded his debut album as a leader.

Clearly in no rush, it isn’t surprising that his music is played with the same patience and discerning care. With so many different experiences to call on, there were many directions that Ferrante could have taken. Joined by drummer Steve Schaeffer and bassist Michael Valerio, he opted for the traditional jazz trio as his springboard to go inside and tap his inner feelings. He felt no need to come out with his hair on fire to try and impress anyone with a jazz speedway. Instead, he left his bandmates on the sidelines for the first few minutes establishing a motif of elegance and eternal grace in “Stick-to-it-iveness.” The rhythm section then blended in softly for the duration of the Ferrante original composition. The mode was in place for a graceful turn on “Network Mutuality,” followed by a third original entitled “Inflexion D.” The latter is a co-title track with “Inflexion A,” that is notably in place later in this intimate and personal recording. Both are quite representative of the bends and creases which delightfully populate this recording. Within all of these tunes Ferrante contemplates subtle directional changes with sleight of hand .

Diving headfirst into a Thelonious Monk song is a good way to pick up the tempo. “Rhythm-a-ning” is driven by Schaeffer and Valerio and reimagined by Ferrante, before digging way back well inside for a sweet run on Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan.” “Spoons” is a clever tribute to long time mentor and band mate, singer Jimmy Witherspoon; Ferrante began his professional career at an early age as a member of the Jimmy Witherspoon Band. The Irving Berlin classic “How Deep is the Ocean” is given a lustrous makeover and is appropriate for Ferrante’s heartfelt contemplation. The positive reinforcement of “We Shall Overcome,” brings this reflective journey to a close.

‘Continuity’ is a word that comes to mind in describing this long-awaited effort. With the strong foundation anchored by Schaeffer and Valerio, Ferrante is provided with the space he needed to confidently let it flow through his veins and onto the keyboard. He chooses not to play it big and bold, instead going deeper inside himself and bearing a more sensitive soul. Although Ferrante doesn’t abandon his familiar touch, he does go outside the box to reach the emotions he is projecting. He often takes the elements listeners have long appreciated and builds upon them. Like a fine wine, sometimes it is best to wait for just the right harvest time. It has been uncorked for your musical palette. Enjoy its fine bouquet. This is a different colored jacket … he wears it well.

1. Stick-to-it-iveness (7:00)
2. Network of Mutuality (7:45)
3. Inflexion D (7:42)
4. Rhythm-a-ning (5:38)
5. Isfahan (7:59)
6. Inflexion A (6:28)
7. Spoons (6:13)
8. I Do (6:23)
9. 57 Chevy (5:19)
10. How Deep is the Ocean (6:28)
11. We Shall Overcome (5:28)

Russell Ferrante: piano
Michael Valerio: bass
Steve Schaeffer: drums

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